Join us, the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research, and the Harvard Kennedy School Black Student Union for a discussion of the survey results from the 6th annual "Power of the Sister Vote” and how the priorities of Black women voters may shape key dimensions of the 2020 races.
Women of color, especially Black women, remain a key voting bloc, particularly within the Democratic Party. However, the issues that concern Black women have shifted, especially among Millennial and Generation Z Black women. Criminal justice and policing reform are a key concern for all Black women voters. However, older Black women voters are most concerned about financial safety and reduced taxes, while a majority of Black women Millennials and Gen Z respondents rate Black maternal and infant mortality as their top priority.
According to the 2018 Power of the Sister Vote survey, the Democratic Party experienced a 12 percent drop in support from Black women from 2017.
The 2019 Power of Sister survey shows that only 45 percent of younger Black women view the Democratic Party as representing their interests. While older Black women voters support the centrism of former Vice-President Joe Biden, if the 2020 election were held today, younger Black women report that they would be more likely to support a progressive candidate like Senator Bernie Sanders. For both older and younger Black women voters, Senator Kamala Harris comes in second.
Melanie L. Campbell
President & CEO Convener, Black Women’s Roundtable
Creator of “Woke Vote” and Partner, Think Rubix
Kirsten West Savali
Senior Editor News & Politics at Essence
Associate Professor, Department of Health Policy and Management & Enabling Change Program Director, DrPH Program, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health | Associate Professor of Psychology in Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School | Executive Director of the Center of Excellence in Women’s Mental Health, McLean Hospital
Presenter: You're listening to AshCast, the podcast of the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard Kennedy School.
Kirsten West Savali: This is a new day. We've gone through Ferguson and Baltimore and New York and Baton Rouge. Young black people, they're saying, "These are our friends. These are our communities. These are our schools that Democrats like Rahm Emanuel are closing down." We're not going to just go and say, "Hey, Democrats." What are you going to do for us? You need us. And so, that's what we're seeing now, I believe.
Presenter: On Thursday, November 21st, the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, The Hutchins Center for African & African American Research, and the Harvard Kennedy School Black Student Union hosted a discussion of the results from the sixth annual Power of the Sister vote survey and how the priorities of black women voters may shape key dimensions of the 2020 presidential race.
Kim Leary: It's really great to welcome you here. My name is Kim Leary and I'm a faculty affiliate here at the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation. I'm also an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and the School of Public Health. Our topic today is Getting Out the Intersectional Vote: What Do Black Women Voters Want? We know that this is a very timely topic, given the debates last night, when Senator Harris brought black women into the spotlight.
Kim Leary: Our panelists, who I will introduce in just a moment, will start by situating us within survey results that came out in September from the sixth annual Power of the Sister Vote, which is a collaboration that's co-sponsored by the Black Women's Roundtable, The Coalition on Black Civic Participation, and Essence. Our panelists will address, among many topics, the priorities that black women voters have regarding the 2020 elections.
Kim Leary: This afternoon's talk is being audio recorded and photographed for educational purposes. This event is also cosponsored. In addition to the Ash Center, we're cosponsored by The Hutchins Center for African & African American Research and the Harvard Kennedy School Black Student Union. We thank all of our sponsors and we are delighted to have all of you with us this afternoon.
Kim Leary: Without further ado, let me introduce our panelists. First, Melanie Campbell, who is the President and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation. She is also the convener of the Black Women's Roundtable Public Policy Network. She is a nationally recognized expert is civic engagement, election reform, and coalition building. We are actually welcoming her back to the Harvard Kennedy School, as she was a resident fellow at the IOP in 2013. Welcome back, Melanie.
Melanie L. Campbell: And thank you for the warmer weather.
DeJuana Thompson: Yes.
Kirsten West Savali: Thank the Lord.
Kim Leary: We came up with warmer weather for you this time around.
Kim Leary: To my left is Kirsten West Savali, who is the Senior Editor of News and Politics at Essence. Her writing and cultural criticism explores the intersections of race, social and criminal justice, feminism, politics, and pop culture, with a particular interest that she has in dismantling narratives and exposing the structures that endanger oppressed and occupied communities. Welcome, Kirsten.
Kirsten West Savali: Thank you. Hi, everybody.
Kim Leary: And DeJuana Thompson is a partner at Think Rubix and the creator of Woke Vote. She has over 15 years of experience as a fierce community advocate, political strategist, and problem solver. She is the creator of Woke Vote, which is a program specifically designed to engage, mobilize, and turn out an unprecedented percentage of African American millennial and faith-based voters in Alabama. She was also appointed by the Obama White House in October 2015 to serve as a Senior Advisor to the U.S. Small Business Administration. Please welcome DeJuana.
Kim Leary: To get us started, we know that many of you have seen and been thinking about and talking about the poll that came out in September, but others of you may not. We thought we'd first by just setting the context. Let me ask Kirsten and Melanie. Tell us about how this partnership between The Black Women's Roundtable and Essence started.
Melanie L. Campbell: Well, first of all thank you. Thank you for this invitation. It was good to see faces and my good friend Miles out there and to be here. This was five years ago, The Black Women's Roundtable... Actually, it was during the Obama administration. We were at an event focused on black women and women of color and I met Vanessa DeLuca, who was a former Editor and Chief of Essence.
Kirsten West Savali: Shout out, Vanessa.
Melanie L. Campbell: Yes, yes.
Kirsten West Savali: Shout out Vanessa.
Melanie L. Campbell: Yes. We just started having a conversation about elections. Part of the challenge was looking for good information, quality information, about what black women were thinking, what our concerns were, and not coming from a Beltway perspective but really finding out from black women. And what better place than Essence magazine?
Melanie L. Campbell: And so, we just started brainstorming and so.... and others, we have a research team of really bad sisters who are researchers and thinkers. Dr. Elsie Scott and others. One of my good friends, who's at IOP and she's around here somewhere, LaTosha Brown, who is also [inaudible 00:06:23]. We just said we needed to have information. We've started doing our own research, as far as not just the poll but also an annual report we release of black women's voices, to really deal with issues of the day. So, the poll was helpful as we were getting ready for... What year was this? Too many elections down. Five years back would be [crosstalk 00:06:43]. Right.
Melanie L. Campbell: And so, to be able to really have an understanding, not for research sake alone, albeit up here at Harvard, but it was really for organizing purposes so we could really elevate the issues. That's kind of the backdrop of how it started and that relationship has continued. It helps us to frame our policy agenda for The Black Women's Roundtable. We go to Capital Hill every year to really challenge folks on the Hill. But also in the States, as well.
Kirsten West Savali: Yeah. I had written about the survey before I got to Essence for other publications. So, when I joined Essence a little over a year ago, this was just right up my alley. These are really really some involved, engage, wonderful black women. It's really important.
Kirsten West Savali: Let me back up one second, because I did want to make a point of recognizing and acknowledging the land that we sit on because I come from that tradition of black women and recognize the Massachusetts people and Harvard's acknowledgement and complicity in slavery. So, it's remarkable that we're sitting here, black women-
DeJuana Thompson: Absolutely.
Kirsten West Savali: holding this conversation and taking up this space and helping to have this conversation with you all. Black women contain multitudes and it's really important that we have these conversations. That's what Essence and Black Women's Roundtable has strived to do.
Kim Leary: Before we get to the most recent findings, tell us about the first survey results from 2015 until 2018 because there's some really important data that I think will situate the current findings in context.
Melanie L. Campbell: Well, five years ago... Everyone remembers Obamacare, The Affordable Care Act. For the first three years, I'm just going to do a summary if that's okay, we wanted to really kind of find out, again, what were the top issues? Affordable healthcare was the top issue for three years straight. It's also where we saw issues around justice were really bringing up, economic justice.
Melanie L. Campbell: I'm just going to read off this. I'm not the researcher, I'm the advocate so I think it's better for me to just put it out there. In our first study, as I mentioned, it was in 2015. We learned that 64% of black women viewed voting as really important. I coined the refrain "black women are the secret sauce to the black vote." But we weren't getting the full value of that vote and value of that leadership. And so, the whole idea of pushing our power the sister vote, which is why this is named that, Power the Sister Vote Poll, was to figure out how.
Melanie L. Campbell: So, we knew that these were voters. The readers of Essence are voters. They are super huge voters.
Kirsten West Savali: Super.
Melanie L. Campbell: So, you know you're talking to people who are going to vote, no matter what. That was 2015. At that time, 2015, black women saw the Democratic Party as having its best interests at heart. This was 2015, with a 1% trust for the Republican Party. It doesn't even rank right now. I say this is not the Republican Party, and this is Melanie's opinion, this is the current occupant of the White House's party. I don't put the whole Republican Party in a box and say, "This is the Republican Party," but they have to own it because that's the title he wears.
Melanie L. Campbell: And so, again, affordable healthcare was the top issue. Why was that? Well, because many of the Republicans who were running in state governments and parties really didn't adopt it. We still have many states that have not fully taken on affordable healthcare, the ACA, in its fullness around Medicaid/Medicare.
Melanie L. Campbell: So, that was the first three years. 2016, presidential election cycle. Again, affordable healthcare is still up there, still the Democratic Party was holding it. 2016 happens. A lot shifted. One of the things that shifted, there was an 11% drop in black women feeling the Democratic Party had its interests at heart. That was a major shift. Affordable healthcare still stayed but then things like criminal justice reform started bubbling up and living wage jobs and quality of public education. All these were the top issues.
Melanie L. Campbell: But it was also a divide when it came to millennial women, who really were seeing criminal justice reform and those things as being top. Justice issues for young people were really front and center, understanding what was starting to happen, the rise in hate crimes. We already had been living through policing and the things that were happening when it comes to violence of the police against black people. So, that continued in 2017.
Melanie L. Campbell: And these things are all related to what's really our lived experiences, so 2018, the rise in hate crimes and racism rose to the top. And by this year when we did it, it was the number one issue, racism and hate crimes. So, we went from affordable healthcare... And I forgot one thing with young people. Also, in those earlier polls, it was about affordable-
Kirsten West Savali: College.Melanie L. Campbell: ... college. That fell not because it's not important, but if I'm dealing with life and death, it's hard to think about paying for a student loan if I'm trying to make sure I can breathe and live. So, that's been the real real concern that we know. So, issues around justice have really risen. I'll just leave that as the big buckets, unless my colleague here wanted to add to it?
Kirsten West Savali: You nailed it. Especially I wanted to make a point about police violence is that where you see state and sexual violence, you often see, too often, the bodies of black women. So, we have dealt with not only police brutality but the fact that sexual violence is the second highest reported form of police brutality that we have and most of it's enacted against black women. We have police officers who, like Daniel Holtzclaw, who raped 13 black women and one black girl. We see this so often. We see black women and particularly black trans women who don't get the support that they need, who aren't believed. Black sex workers who don't get the support [inaudible 00:13:28] who aren't believed.
Kirsten West Savali: So, when we talk about police brutality and black women, it is very important that we situate it specifically within black women's bodies, black women's pain, black women's lived situations. It's not just going out and shooting black boys. It's not just because these are our sons. It's us. So, it's important. Essence always wants put that focus on is black women not just who we are to other people but who we are, for ourselves.
Kim Leary: DeJuana, help us to index this against the progressive movement out there. What are you hearing? Where are black women's voices represented and where are we not being heard?
DeJuana Thompson: I want to say thank you so much for the opportunity. I always think it's an incredibly important opportunity when I can sit between people who I truly believe the things that come out of their mouth, the work that they do, they believe this with their heart. I think as we talk about what black women care about leading into 2020, they oftentimes vote for the entire community. They do everything for the entire community.
DeJuana Thompson: And so, when you think about the progressive party, I always say that as much as I want to get excited about them, it particularly shows up in the Southern states still with racism, with bias, with prejudice. A lot of the programming still shows up with a lens that is tone deaf, with a lens that has completely forgot about the leadership of people who have been doing this work on the ground for a very very long time.
DeJuana Thompson: And so, I think that there has been a challenge, in a lot of ways, where we have to support a structure that has not always seen us, has not always heard us, has not always made room for our leadership. We're starting to see, I think, as we've seen over the last maybe year, maybe two, starting to see some of those chinks in the glass as it relates to that, but we haven't seen it fast enough in places like Alabama, in places like Georgia, even in places like North Carolina.
DeJuana Thompson: And so, I think that has sparked more of a localized movement of women leadership, particularly black women's leadership, on the ground. They're saying, "We'll wait until you all get yourselves together, but we can't wait on the ground." And so, that's what's happening. I think you're seeing that real sort of homegrown that's been there forever saying, "This is actually good enough now and actually, it's better that we do it this way than wait on that traditional space."
Kim Leary: So, what are the investments that need to be made in order for that pipeline to grow over the next period of time?
DeJuana Thompson: Whew. Well, first of all, and I know people have a fear around the word "reparation," but when I think about reparations-
Kirsten West Savali: Say it.
DeJuana Thompson: ... I'm not even thinking just about, "Okay, we're going to get our 40 acres and a mule." I am thinking about the fact that there are-
Kirsten West Savali: [crosstalk 00:16:16]. Listen.
DeJuana Thompson: I'm from the South. I live in Alabama. 40 acres is a lot of land.
Melanie L. Campbell: A lot of land in Florida, girl.
DeJuana Thompson: And so, I will welcome it with open arms. But I think that when I think about sometimes the term of "reparations," I look at the fact that the work even that people like Melanie has done, that people like Kirsten has done, like people LaTosha have done, has been underfunded and under-resourced for so long. If we could just, literally, go back and say, "You guys have worked for $5 when other people were getting $5,000,000 and close that gap," we would be able to have enough resources to sustain our programming long-term and not just the Sunday before election day.
DeJuana Thompson: And so, I think that critical long-term strategic investment with actual dollars attached to it is going to be necessary. The second thing I think is that as we still look at the progressive party and look at all the parties, the level of leadership by people of color is still at a disparaging amount. We're still looking at less than 20% of the supposedly "progressive" party are people of color who are in leadership. What does that mean when we all know that in about 10 years, this whole country is going to be a minority country? And so, I don't understand why we're taking so long to get to a system that is equitable in that way. So, in a lot of ways, investment looks like changing the leadership landscape.
DeJuana Thompson: And then the third thing I would say, just to round it out, is that we see a lot of, when it comes to pipeline programming, the way in which we are brought into the pipeline is too late and is too narrow. I grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, was very active in the community. My father is a pastor, my mother was an educator. I went to school in Appalachia at Berea College. I learned a lot there, but when I went back, I worked for the city of Birmingham. I started out as a community organizer on behalf on the city council. My job was to do engagement and to tell people what was going on on behalf of the council.
DeJuana Thompson: But there was nobody there, really, who even had a lens around how do you actually organize? How do you actually create, build, and program and Power Map and all of that? I didn't hear about that until, probably, the third or fourth year of my career when I met an organization called The Gathering for Social Justice with Harry Belafonte. And through that organization, I was set up to start learning things.
DeJuana Thompson: But our folk in the South, particularly, are learning about Power Map and how we enter into these spaces a lot later and a lot too late. And so, I think if we can open the doors for access into the systems that be in terms of how we build power, how we legislate for ourselves, how we organize for ourselves, root that at an earlier age, then that is a way that we can see some definite investment.
Kim Leary: That sounds like a really important set of policy and practice recommendations.
DeJuana Thompson: Absolutely.
Kim Leary: I want to pick up on one of the things that Melanie mentioned about the differences that we're starting to see between older black women voters and millennial and Generation Z voters. One of those differences is is who they're supporting, at least at this point in the election cycle. So, we see their mothers and grandmothers and aunts leaning towards Biden. But the younger folk, the younger women, are leaning towards Bernie Sanders. What can you tell us about that?
Melanie L. Campbell: Well, first I would say that our poll and our black youth vote, young leaders are hosting these debate watch parties in Alabama and Florida and Georgia and Michigan, D.C. Metro Area. Whatever age, black folks are shopping.
DeJuana Thompson: Yeah. I agree.
Melanie L. Campbell: Black women are still shopping.
DeJuana Thompson: I agree.
Melanie L. Campbell: The majority number were those who had not made up their mind. And when I talked to our young folks down [inaudible 00:20:33], last night nobody won.
DeJuana Thompson: Absolutely.
Melanie L. Campbell: So, just from general [crosstalk 00:20:39]. And I was in South Atlanta a couple of weeks ago. Yes, black women, seasoned sisters, if you will, are strategic with our vote. And so, folks are going to have to work for it. It's not so much that everybody's in love with Biden. He's going to have to work for it. I don't think he did a great job last night working for it.
Kirsten West Savali: Oh, my.
Melanie L. Campbell: I'm not in anybody's camp. I'm nonpartisan. I've got friends in every camp.
DeJuana Thompson: Me too. Me too.
Melanie L. Campbell: But that's just the truth. And so, the analysis, just from last night, black women are looking. Whatever your age, because we are across the board, whether you're talking about a Z... All these letters. I'm starting to get headaches. Z, Y, X, post-, pre-, whatever. Across the board, are shopping still. There's nobody who's made up their mind.
DeJuana Thompson: I agree.
Melanie L. Campbell: I think, obviously, the familiarity because he was the vice president for the first African American president does play a role and I'm not saying he doesn't have, and this is just me speaking, some good things in his record. There are some things that are not so good. Young people, I can't speak for you. You have to tell me. [inaudible 00:22:04] tell me what you think. That's why they're tapping in to figure out and they haven't made up their mind.
Melanie L. Campbell: Bernie Sanders does not have young people on lockdown, either, because there are too many choices to make. So, that's what we're seeing. And so, I think the last poll we did, not this one because we're still crunching those numbers, I think last month's poll, Biden was still up there even amongst millennials and Generation Z.
Melanie L. Campbell: So, it's kind of all over the place but the common denominator-
DeJuana Thompson: Nobody.
Melanie L. Campbell: ... since the debates have started, is the number still stays at no one has... The highest number 25, 26%
Kim Leary: DeJuana?
DeJuana Thompson: No, I totally agree with that. I think the other part of it is that as people are starting to really feel empowered about what their vote actually means again and how they can utilize that vote to really build power for themselves, they are looking at certain things differently.
DeJuana Thompson: Even though we started our program in Birmingham, in Alabama, we're in about 18 states now. One of the things that I can say, truly, to Melanie's point, is that the last conversation that we had with all of our fellows, we have about 600 and something fellows, and the last conversation we had with them was that they felt two things was critically missing. One, they still feel like everybody on that stage is lacking in some degree of authenticity around issues of blackness and black experiences.
DeJuana Thompson: And it's not so much that they feel like, "Oh, this person can't talk about black issues because they're not black." It's not like that. What they're saying is that when they start bringing up what are the solutions or what have been the issues, there's a lack of depth there in talking about it. And so, that is ringing true to a lot of young people across the board and a lot of seasoned people across the board. And so, we see that.
DeJuana Thompson: The second thing that they're saying is that people are still not showing up the way they say that they have been into these communities and to these neighborhoods. What we know is that in this particular election, as Melanie has said, we do believe that people are going to have to work for the vote. People are actually making the decisions earlier than what I think even the Party is used to. They're saying, "If you haven't been to the state in the last six months, where have you been?"
DeJuana Thompson: And so, when they're having those questions, the people who are actually showing up are the Bidens. The Elizabeth Warrens. You'd be surprised. In a place like Birmingham, Alabama, Elizabeth Warren packed out a whole stadium in two days. I was shocked. With black people. She's been to Alabama 17 times in the last year. That's a different level of engagement.
DeJuana Thompson: And so, what we're seeing is that that engagement is changing the dynamics of how people view the candidate in a way that we haven't seen before.
Kim Leary: Kirsten?
Kirsten West Savali: Well, I think a couple of things about the progressive vote is that younger black people, younger black women in specifically, are not fooled by the politics of representation. Like, we have to also make sure we don't have a leftist All Lives Matter kind of movement. So, even though we're focusing on wealth gap and class disparities, class discrimination, just because you're a black face in a hot place doesn't mean you're for our community.
Kirsten West Savali: So, we see a lot of that shifting. What are your politics? What are you talking about? If I only see you when you come into our communities to go to churches and kiss black babies and then you're gone or then you're holding over our communities the Republican Party as red meat because you don't care about Mississippi. You don't care about Alabama. You need these black women.
Kirsten West Savali: I want to also lift up almost half of the country that does not vote.
DeJuana Thompson: Listen.
Kirsten West Savali: And they don't vote not because they are privileged, not because they don't care about the process, but because the process has not included them, has not made space for them, that they go to the polls if they're able to after disenfranchisement and voter suppression. If they're able to. And they still don't have their needs discussed. They still don't have their needs talked about.
Kirsten West Savali: Black people are tired. Fannie Lou Hamer was tired when she said it. But young black people are still tired. This is a new day. We've gone thorough Ferguson and Baltimore and New York and Baton Rouge. Black people, they're saying, "These are our friends. These are our communities. These are our schools that Democrats like Rahm Emanuel are closing down." We're not going to just go and say, "Hey, Democrats." What are you going to do for us? You need us. And so, that's what we're seeing now, I believe.
Kim Leary: As you describe this, what could any of these candidates do, with respect to that authenticity? Is there anything that someone, say, newly entering the race? Would you have advice for any of those new faces?
Kirsten West Savali: I mean, Deval Patrick should have thought about that. [crosstalk 00:27:16]. I mean, I don't know. Bain Capital is an issue. Super PACs are an issue.
DeJuana Thompson: They are.
Kirsten West Savali: Being centrist in an increasingly progressive country is an issue. So, being friends with Obama and being nice and being well-spoken is just... What are your politics, my friend? What are you saying? How can you think that you can come in at the tail end of everything, have Bain Capital scrub your name, what, the day or your announcement? And think that's going to make a difference? It's not. So, it's just a different time. Can I say that?
DeJuana Thompson: Yes.
Kim Leary: Last question before we open it up to the audience. We're talking about black women and we have Senator Harris. What would you like to say about Senator Harris' campaign so far and the way in which she has spoken to black women as a voting block?
DeJuana Thompson: I'll let Melanie start.
Kirsten West Savali: I'll let Melanie go with it.
Melanie L. Campbell: I will say this. I thought last night she did a much better job.
DeJuana Thompson: She did have a strong night last night. Stronger night.
Melanie L. Campbell: I had a lot of emotions sitting there in Atlanta, where I spent 17 years of my life and so still have a lot of family there and I have a lot of roots in Atlanta, because I felt like last night, this is not about the debate but I think this is just fresh on my mind is that, when it came to issues around racial justice and issues around voting rights, especially she spoke to it and so did Senator Cory Booker. Which, I was glad and then irritated at the same time because it shouldn't have had to be the two black people on the stage to talk about issues that are important to black people and we're in Atlanta and we're in the South, that there was a miss with whoever-
Melanie L. Campbell: ... designed that debate to say, "Wouldn't this be the moment to talk about civil rights and voting rights and social justice issues?"
Melanie L. Campbell: It seemed they forced more of the conversation and I felt she did well with that. I feel like, at some point, it's okay to just fully be who you are. We keep saying that word "authenticity," knowing that yes, I can sit here and I can quarterback running for president, not on my bucket list to want to do so I can have a lot of opinion. But just having been in it as long as I have I think for her having to really show who she is and own it I think is really important, from where I sit. That's all I'll say about that.
Kim Leary: Well, let's open it up to the audience.
Kirsten West Savali: Well...
Kirsten West Savali: There is, I think, and I want to bring movement into this space because so much of being a black woman is political just in and of itself.
DeJuana Thompson: In itself.
Kirsten West Savali: So, movement, we talk about trusting prosecutors. When you talk about "Kamala for the people," the "people" she's referring to is the state. When she says, "'Kamala for the people,' I've said this my whole career," she's talking about Kamala for the state.
Kirsten West Savali: Young black people have issues with this. America, itself, is a white seller colonial project. We have issues with the carceral state. We have issues with the U.S. being the number one jailer in the world. We have issues with black girls being the most on the rise for being in juvenile centers, with our children facing punitive issues in school, being kicked out of schools, facing police officers beating them up in schools, particularly our children where blackness and disability intersects.
Kirsten West Savali: So, when you have someone who is not really addressing the issues with her prosecutorial record, there are black women in California who I speak with quite frequently who have issues with that. There are people in movement spaces who want her to address these things and not say, "I'm for the state." You have to be authentic. You have to be honest. And I think that's what the disconnect is that we're seeing.
Kirsten West Savali: But there are black people, black women in particular, who support her. She had a great night last night.
Melanie L. Campbell: Yeah. She did have [crosstalk 00:31:28].
Kirsten West Savali: I feel like she listened when she said, "What are you going to do for black women?" I'm glad she brought that into the conversation. But just because you're a black woman doesn't mean... All black women aren't for black women.
Melanie L. Campbell: Just because.
Kirsten West Savali: So, you have to be able to talk the talk and walk the walk at the same time.
DeJuana Thompson: You asked what did I think about the campaign, correct? Specifically?
Kim Leary: In the context of black women voters, yeah.
DeJuana Thompson: In the context of black women voters. I think that any campaign that does not have a really really smart and intentional program around black engagement that centers black women voters is missing something critically. And until I see that, I think that that campaign needs some leadership or some guidance around that.
DeJuana Thompson: What I think has been the biggest criticism of her campaign is that it seems as though engagement with black women, specifically, but also with minority communities is a secondary part of her agenda, not a primary part of her agenda. That could be for several reasons. That could be political strategy, that could be all kinds of things. But the point is it's showing up a certain kind of way on the ground. It's signaling a certain kind of thing on the ground.
DeJuana Thompson: It's hard, then, if you've been signaling one things for weeks and weeks and then you get on the stage and you have this incredible Harriet moment. It's like, "Oh. Okay. I heard what you said there, but I'm looking, then, for the last seven weeks. Where was that Harriet? Where was that activism or whatever it was for the last couple of weeks or whatever?"
DeJuana Thompson: So, she's, I think, having to deal with the question of whether or not what she's saying on the stage is really who she is and what she embodies and what she believes or is that a soundbite? I think until we can get her past that moment, there's just some disconnect there.DeJuana Thompson: I'm not questioning her authenticity. I'm not questioning whether or not she's a sister. I would never do that. I'm not here to question anyone's degree of blackness. That's crazy. What I am here to say is that when you put yourself on a public platform like that, you expose yourself for people to ask those kinds of questions. And when there is nothing for them to point to other than your time as a prosecutor or there's nothing for them to point to other than the times where they've heard you openly talk about how you put the most people who did marijuana away but then you smoked it yourself. When there's nothing for them to talk about or go back to except for those things, it's really hard to deal with her in an authentic way for a lot of young people and a lot of just people, in general.
DeJuana Thompson: And so, I'm hoping that she's able to marry or to just think through that a little bit more.
Kim Leary: Well, you know, our question was about getting out the intersectional vote and what do black women votes want? I think we've heard quite a bit in a very lively way some of what black women voters are thinking about. And-
Melanie L. Campbell: Can I say one thing-
Kim Leary: Yes, absolutely.
Melanie L. Campbell: ... before we open it up? Yeah, we want and we're demanding.
DeJuana Thompson: Right.
Kirsten West Savali: Right.
Melanie L. Campbell: It's about respecting. You want to win? I see it every day. Well, I'm not saying it in life. No, I'm serious. You want to win? We're in a different space and we have to be. And so, we're owning that power. You miss it if you're a progressive and need the black vote and don't understand the strategic role black women play. It's a new day, and that's across generations as far as-
DeJuana Thompson: Agree.
Melanie L. Campbell: And my girl LaTosha here-
Kirsten West Savali: Yes, LaTosha.
Melanie L. Campbell: ... we [crosstalk 00:35:15]. [inaudible 00:35:19] got the blackest bus in America right here. And it's not a metaphor. Black woman is leading that, with a brother. And so, that's the time. We're owning it, where possible raising our own money. But that's the time we're in. Even with Kamala, not to her defense but I'm going to bring this to her defense, also, when it comes to her and the other women, women, there still is not enough coverage-
DeJuana Thompson: Oh, for sure.
Melanie L. Campbell: ... of what people are actually doing out there.
DeJuana Thompson: That's for sure.
Melanie L. Campbell: That's a challenge that we have to keep pushing back on.
DeJuana Thompson: That's for sure.
Melanie L. Campbell: Throw that out there.
Kirsten West Savali: And also, lifting up the people who have continued to do this work, like we are in a new day, but we still have women who have done this for years. Years. We can go back to Rosa Parks investigating white supremacists raping black women, go back to Ida B. Wells investigating lynchings. Deborah Small, I'm sure some of you may be familiar with her work. Amazing work around the carceral state and addiction and how this country is addicted to the idea of punishment. asha bandele with DPA. LaTosha right here. Susan Burton in L.A. Deon Haywood in New Orleans. Ashley Henderson, Dara Cooper talking about national food justice.
Kirsten West Savali: There are black women all over the country. I always say, "If you're saying no one is talking about this, it's because you're not listening." Listen to black women. We've been talking about it and we will continue to do so.
DeJuana Thompson: Absolutely.
Kim Leary: Well, let's open this up to the audience. I think we've got a couple of mics. Please. Yeah.
LaTosha Brown: I know all these women and I deeply deeply respect these women. Oftentimes, people have their own body of work and thank you all for lifting up sisters. But you all are also sisters that should be lifted up in the work that you do. So, I really want to ask a question from you that... People see black women as workers. Like, folks are good for us to be the workhorse. Ain't nobody have no problems with that. But literally investing, creating the space for us as thought leaders and shaping the whole national political dialogue beyond just this, "Yeah, yeah, you all can go talk to the black people," but we add something to the larger body politic.
LaTosha Brown: I'm interested in, where you sit, what would be helpful in lifting up your work? What is it that you need that would honor what your contribution is? How could, as we're sitting, and I know you're probably struggling because ain't nobody asked you that.
Kirsten West Savali: Asked me that. Right.
LaTosha Brown: But I'm a black woman, so I understand.
DeJuana Thompson: I'm like, whew.
LaTosha Brown: So, I'm just interested for you all as you all are sit because you all are all leading amazing work. What could lift up and be supportive and helpful in advancing your mission, your leadership, your voice, and your work?
Kirsten West Savali: I don't know. I will say I don't know. I don't know. My positioning has always been as an amplifier. I could cry just thinking. I love you all. So many amazing black women doing so much work all over the place.
Kirsten West Savali: So, I find that my passion is when our young people are uprising in communities, I don't mind being up to 3:00 and 4:00 in the morning, making sure we're telling the stories that CNN and NBC and ABC aren't telling. That's what I get from that. Knowing that there's a sister who needs to travel from St. Louis because she wants to participate in an uprising in Baton Rouge and helping her get food and helping her get housing. That's all I need, to be honest with you.
Kirsten West Savali: I don't know. I mean, funding is...
DeJuana Thompson: Always.
Kirsten West Savali: Always funding. Always funding. We don't-
DeJuana Thompson: Always.
Kirsten West Savali: Our work is not valued at all.
Melanie L. Campbell: [crosstalk 00:39:25]
Kirsten West Savali: People think it should be free on-
DeJuana Thompson: Demand.
Kirsten West Savali: ... for whatever. That the gift is the fact that we're here. Always that. But I really don't know. I would have to-
LaTosha Brown: I do want to push back.
Kirsten West Savali: Push back. Yeah, yeah.
LaTosha Brown: I'm going to push back a little bit because I think this is part of the space that we're used to being the nurturers and people don't ask us what we need. But each of you all are probably doing some project, something that you want the world to know about that you're contributing. I want to know. I want to support you. And there's others that maybe want to support you. I want you to think about whatever that is. I already know you want to amplify, so how can you be a bigger amplifier? Is there a project or something you're working on that we can be supportive? I just want to push back [crosstalk 00:40:08].
Kirsten West Savali: You all go. Let me think. Yeah.
Kim Leary: Well, we can hold that and maybe come back to that as we see what else is on the minds of the folks who are here.
Dee: Hello. My name is Dee. I'm in residence as a fellow here for the year but I'm from St. Louis. During the uprising in Ferguson, thank you for uplifting a lot of that work, I led the Artivists STL, which was the arts organizing arm of what we were doing. Part of the challenge is that as it led up to local elections, some of that momentum was hard to sustain for a lot of the reasons that you all mentioned.
Dee: With thinking about this upcoming presidential election next year, my question... I have so many questions. But my main question is what are the calls to action to young people, to women of color, that you all would see for us to strategize collectively in making sure that some of these voids that you've highlighted can be filled and met by us if not by anyone else?
Melanie L. Campbell: Well, first of all, I think you would be leading that. I think just listening to you just that little bit of time, I think this is you all's moments and I would see you all in your generation's moment to really [inaudible 00:41:28]... We know issues. How to connect that beyond just about the tradition of just showing up, just go vote, but actually having it matter in a way that goes beyond and actually come to solution?
Melanie L. Campbell: It's like, 25 years ago, I was you. And I'm telling all the young people that are around me. It's like, what my job is, as much as I can... If I can say what I need is to be able to provide the resources for this generation to have the resources they need because 2018, they keep talking about the... I was so frustrated in the fact that young people voted in some places 300%, I mean, just out the box. And it was almost like crickets.
Kirsten West Savali: Nobody talked about it.
Melanie L. Campbell: So, we know, I think, young people are going to vote. It's about how to leverage that power that you have so you can push back. And so, the only thing I want is I want to be able to support the leadership that has... Take this thing and run with it and take it to that next level. That's why I'm still in it. I'm in it because I want to make sure young people, that you have more opportunity than we may have fought... My generation, I'm a post-civil rights generation. And that black women get the respect that we deserve not just for ourselves but also for ourselves and be okay with that.
Melanie L. Campbell: And so, there's so many cases, as a black woman, the idea of it being... I'm over 50. I say what is on my own. Sometimes I'm like, "Ooh, I didn't mean to say that," but I'm okay with that, too, because you have to be true to myself.
Melanie L. Campbell: And so, you all have a collective power that I think you have not fully grasped. I think tell me how to help. Tell us how to help. [inaudible 00:43:40] talk after. But I think that's it. You all are your leaders and we all that, as seasoned sisters like myself, I just want to figure out how to help. There's a lot of us out here like that.
DeJuana Thompson: If I could just answer that question, too? One of the things that we are trying to really develop around, as we talk about voter suppression, if you're talking about what can people tangibly be doing right now? One of the things we can do is change the leadership in these polling locations. That's something that has kind of gone over people's heads.
Melanie L. Campbell: Yeah. Real talk.
DeJuana Thompson: We have a program. We're talking about what can you support on? What we've found is that when you look at what we call some of our largest polling locations or polling precincts for people of color that we already know are targeted heavily by voter suppression tactics is that the leadership in those polls, almost 87% of that leadership does not reflect the actual demographics of the community that they serve. And most people think that, "Oh, I've got to go through all of this to become this polling location director." In most towns, it's just literally taking a class or it's showing up for a meeting of five people and somebody votes you in. But that leadership power that that polling manager has is significant-
Melanie L. Campbell: Is significant.
DeJuana Thompson: ... and it is sometimes the only thing that makes a difference in voter suppression.
DeJuana Thompson: So, we have a program and an effort to change out at least 67 of these polling locations across the South with people who look like us who understand the issues and the historic voter suppression tactics that have happened in those polling locations. And we want it to be people like you. And so, if we can get as many people as we can to actually take on the initiative of becoming those people, and a lot of those roles are being determined now. They get determined before the primaries.
Melanie L. Campbell: Primaries.
DeJuana Thompson: And so, we've been trying to push that information out to get more people like us. So, that's one tangible thing that if you're thinking... And you can be 18-years-old. And it's a fight sometimes because people have been doing it for a long time, Miss Maddy been there for 17 years, whatever. And it's okay. Maybe we support Miss Maddy because Miss Maddy may not understand every single thing that needs to happen or whatever it may be. That's one thing.
DeJuana Thompson: The other thing that I think is critical and the reason why we started... My firm is called Think Rubix. It's a social impact firm and we specialize in engagement strategy because what we found is that everybody wants to do good but they don't know how to do well. So, they show up doing stuff and it's actually more harmful because they haven't really thought through the long-term effect of whatever it is they're trying to do.
DeJuana Thompson: So, what we say is, "Listen. We appreciate that you want to come in. We appreciate that you want to help. But why don't you hire people like me on the front end to help you think about your strategy, to help you think about how you're going to engage thins community, help you think about what your product is going to do to our community before you bring it in?"
DeJuana Thompson: With that being said, though, LaTosha, I think one of the best things that somebody can do for me is stop de-legitimizing the work that people like us do, in terms of our strategic mind. And just because it's not the traditional model of the way things have always been done or the way that it always has been laid out, stop dismissing its viability and its effectiveness.
DeJuana Thompson: What we were able to do with Woke Vote and also with our work for our firm is we said, "You know what? I'm tired of having to prove that I know for a fact when I knock on a door and have a conversation with people in any community, they turn out at a higher percentage than some of these traditional programs." I'm tired of having to say that. I'm tired of having to show you way more information than any other organization.
DeJuana Thompson: So, we went to some of the same spaces that they trust that data from. We went to The Analyst Institute. We had them do a complete program analysis of every single thing that we do in our programs. Our engagement strategy, the way in which we work. Not because we didn't think... We know our work is working. But we needed to... Sometimes you've got to meet people where they at in their frame of understanding and their reference.
DeJuana Thompson: So, when The Analyst Institute published a finding that our work was not only turning out more than 27% more than average programs on the ground in those communities but that the people that we're talking to are people who have not even been communicated with pretty much ever, because we deal with people who have what you call "the lowest propensity voting score." I even hate the term "propensity" because that's a man-made word to keep somebody out of a system, basically.
DeJuana Thompson: But what we say is that most traditional programs, and you all know this, and people who get the money, they get the most money to talk to people who vote at a propensity or vote at a percentage of 40% to 70% because they believe that this person is valued enough, that their experience as a voter is valued enough, to invest in. But you've got 0% to 40% of the community that you have determined that it's not important enough for me to raise the resources to engage that community.
DeJuana Thompson: And so, what we've said is, "We're not going to do that. We're going to start with 0 and we're going to work from 0 to 30." And so, what we're talking about, we're knocking at doors that nobody has talked to and they're turning out at a higher level than people from 40% to 70%.
DeJuana Thompson: So, what does that mean? That means that you have literally silenced and suppressed a whole part of a voting community because you didn't believe that the dynamics and the way that we needed to engage that community was sufficient. And so, when I say, "Help us," I'm saying places like Harvard, places like Yale, all these places where we're so excited to be at right now. Legitimize the work of organizers. Legitimize the work of non-traditional advocates and leaders who know how to get these things done.
Erica: Good evening. My name is Erica. I'm a recent alum from the School of Public Health. My question from you is maybe to shift a little bit from what you've been talking about. We've talked as black women as voters, at the polls. I wonder if you have any advice for black women as a candidate working at the local level? What piece of advice you might give to someone who's considering running for any level of office, but particularly at the local level? Thank you.
Melanie L. Campbell: I would say connect you with people who that's what they do, which we know several folks who are investing. I think about Stefanie Brown-James-
DeJuana Thompson: Yeah. Collective PAC.
Melanie L. Campbell: ... and Collective PAC and her partner-
DeJuana Thompson: Quentin.
Melanie L. Campbell: ... Quentin James. They're based out of D.C. and they had this vision and they've been really investing in candidates. That would be one.
Melanie L. Campbell: There's others. There's folks that have been around a while, some of these other groups. But that would be who I would want to connect folks with. The folks who kind of get it from a whole nother perspective and they've really been doing great work for about, what? Three, four years now.
Melanie L. Campbell: You have your EMILY's List and nothing against all of that, but as far as black candidates, The Kennedy School. Who else is there?
DeJuana Thompson: Higher Heights.
Melanie L. Campbell: Yeah, Higher Heights.
DeJuana Thompson: My advice along with that, in terms of building your network, BLUE Institute. Ashley Robinson is an amazing black woman training the next wave of political leadership and campaign leadership. So, yes. Building that network is going to be incredibly important.
DeJuana Thompson: I think the other part is determining what your message is going to be very early on and owning that message and figuring out how to get that message out as much as possible because a lot of times, you're probably going to be coming into a space where either somebody's been there forever and everybody knows them and who they've been. Particularity if you're somewhere in the South, like me, some people have been in office for 50 years, literally. So, owning the narrative, owning your message is very very important.
DeJuana Thompson: The other thing I would say is really understand the value of what your volunteers bring to your campaign and not just limit them to doorknockers. Help make a space for them to be innovative about the way in which you engage the community, the way in which you talk about policy, because they're the people who are still the votes. And so, making a great way for them to get involved.
DeJuana Thompson: And then, you've got to have money. You've got to figure out who are the people who will invest in you early and think about that Power Map tree of resources because even on a local level where it may not cost you, what, $10,000 to run? That could be a lot of money for somebody to run. And so, it's like what are the resources that are out there? If you think about the money part a little bit more intentionally and strategically on the front end instead of getting in and then realizing you've got to raise all this money, it changes the way in which you can be strong about how you run and own your own campaign, basically.
Kim Leary: Can I just ask you a question about that, too? At a place like Harvard, at the Kennedy School, it's not uncommon for people to say, "I intend to run for office." That's not unusual around here. But in many other places in many other contexts, to say something like that, to make that kind of a claim on a future, takes a lot of courage.
DeJuana Thompson: Yeah, absolutely.
Kim Leary: So, I wonder, to those folks, especially young women, who are thinking that this is a world in which they want to participate but they don't have this kind of infrastructure around them, what can we say? What might you advise?
Melanie L. Campbell: Well, I know a lot of folks who ran [inaudible 00:53:36] and part of my Black Women's Roundtable who didn't wait on anybody to tell them to run. I'm thinking about people who I even, in my time... It's really being able to encircle yourself with folks who, really first believe yourself and believe that you can do it.
Melanie L. Campbell: I know too many people that I know who are a black woman who ran straight out of college. Some of them tried even in college. I think about Mary-Pat Hector down in Atlanta, Georgia, who's been in politics since she was 11?
DeJuana Thompson: 13? 12? Yeah.
Melanie L. Campbell: [crosstalk 00:54:13] doing stuff with Reverend Sharpton with National Action Network. Ran for a seat while she was at Spelman College as a Sophomore and really... Did she come close or won and they did something to trip...
Kirsten West Savali: She won.
Melanie L. Campbell: Yeah, she won and they-
Kirsten West Savali: They flipped it. Yeah.
Melanie L. Campbell: The powers that be. So, I don't remember who was asking that question. [inaudible 00:54:38]. Yeah, back here. Right. Right here, right here.
Melanie L. Campbell: So, being able to decide that's what you want is the first order of business because it's still true, research-wise, that it takes women, what? Seven times to be asked?
DeJuana Thompson: I think so.
Melanie L. Campbell: I don't know what it is for black women or other women of color. Even harder because it's harder to... Even if you're an incumbent, having the resources.
DeJuana Thompson: Sacrifices, yeah.
Melanie L. Campbell: So, the first thing is that that's what you want and you want to be a part of that solution, own that and then get connected. And so, we support our sisters, through the Black Women's Roundtable, who were organizers, who started out as activists and organizers, who are what I say political leaders but also continue to be organizers and activists.
DeJuana Thompson: You've got to.
Melanie L. Campbell: If you keep that in mind, then your people will stay with you. So, don't see it as a shift. You have to do some things differently, but if you stay in community the community will stay with you. That would be my two cents. And again, to connect with the folks who have these networks, help you figure out the money part of running for office, whether you're talking local or a higher office.
Melanie L. Campbell: And look what happened in 2018. You look out there.
DeJuana Thompson: Ayanna.
Melanie L. Campbell: [inaudible 00:56:03] in this last three years, most of them outside protesting as opposed to going inside. But it is what it is in D.C. right now. I went for the State of the Union. Whew. Of all times to go, this past year? But just to look out and see the stark difference-
Kirsten West Savali: Oh, my.
Melanie L. Campbell: And I'm way up in the bleachers. But if you're looking out here and you see all these white men and then the other half of the room, black and brown and young, all the rainbow of what the United States of America really is. And so, this is the moment.
Melanie L. Campbell: Women came in like gangbusters. And so, I think the momentum of that and being able to change this country, it's going to take women and women of color, especially, and as a black woman, of course, that's where my full self... That's part of my work. I think it's the time for us to do that because I think until we change the gender dynamic, then it just makes no sense what's happening when you look on that side of the aisle and see that you have a party that is pretty much an all white male party. I mean, that's it. But that's not what America is. And so, we have to fight that and run. Run. Are you going to run?
DeJuana Thompson: You should.
Melanie L. Campbell: All right.
DeJuana Thompson: I had one quick thing to say about that, also, is that it is really important to research the race, though.
Melanie L. Campbell: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. Get your facts.
DeJuana Thompson: I think sometimes we do tell people, "Run, run, run," but we're not looking at what that race may look like or what the conditions are. And so, researching the race and making sure that, okay... Because I just hate to say it, we're also in a place right now where symbolic victories don't mean a lot. Like, we need some real wins. And so now, a symbolic victory may be a real win if you research it and that's what it's going to take to make change. But-
Melanie L. Campbell: But I would say if you get the support system around you, you're going to get all of that. That's my point. So, if you want to run, you don't want to just run out here by yourself.
DeJuana Thompson: Oh, absolutely.
Melanie L. Campbell: You want to make sure you're got the network, you've got the DeJuanas, you've got the folks-
DeJuana Thompson: Yeah, absolutely.
Melanie L. Campbell: ... to help you with that. Don't do it by yourself. I'm [inaudible 00:58:24] 100%. But if you have that ability to have those resources with you, then that'll help you so that you're not out there running and it doesn't connect. That's [inaudible 00:58:34].
DeJuana Thompson: My point I think is to the numbers game that races are and if you have not done any work, for instance, if we want to flip a seat and we haven't done enough work to increase the amount of voters that would actually support a race for you, maybe the first step is get out on the ground, increase the voter share-
Melanie L. Campbell: Of that.
DeJuana Thompson: ... so that that person can be successful when they run. I am not in any way saying that there are not moments when we can push past that but I do know that, a lot of times, we're working against walls that we don't have to if we had done a little bit more of the research on the front end and be strategic about which races we get in or how we buffer ourselves when we get ready to run.
DeJuana Thompson: Right. Going to those campaign schools that-
Melanie L. Campbell: Yeah, the campaign schools so that'll help you [inaudible 00:59:26].
DeJuana Thompson: Yeah, for sure. Because honey, these people crazy.
Kareem: Hey y'all.
DeJuana Thompson: Hey
Kirsten West Savali: Hey.
DeJuana Thompson: Hey.
Kareem: My name is Kareem. I am a second year master's in public policy student. Thank you all so much for being here and for inspiring us to change the landscape of politics and to realize and recognize that what you all are doing is something that we need to carry forward.
Kareem: I wanted to lift up something that DeJuana had mentioned earlier. She said that black women vote for their community. And then soon after that, as you continue to mention this idea that they're empowered because they know what their vote means and that their vote matters. I wanted to bring that in conversation with something that Melanie, that you had mentioned, of, okay, now that folks know that their vote matters and what it means, what about their dollars and that their dollars matter and what their dollars mean? Because at the end of the day, it comes down to there's an underinvestment and an under-resourcing of campaigns and ideas like you all's that can really change the electoral landscape.
Kareem: So, how do we bring this idea of empowerment and conversation with the idea of resource mobilization and bringing out new donors and new dollars to fundamentally change the way we organize communities of color?
Melanie L. Campbell: Well, hon, that's ever evolving. [inaudible 01:00:42] my sister here because we go way back. That's my sister. I remember what happened with you and what happened with you, from various angles. Owning and saying, "We're going to do it ourselves or we're going to push people to do the right thing." So, it's a combination of going after resources within our own communities to fund our politics.
Melanie L. Campbell: The late Dr. Ron Walters was one of my mentors. If you don't know that name, Google him. He was a powerful, powerful, powerful thought leader, activist. But he would always say, "He who funds your politics controls your politics." And so, there's also the idea of moving it forward is, especially for communities of color and black folks, being able to fund our politics because you break it down about the history of this country, part of the... Get myself in trouble. We're going to have to keep raising money. But truly, part of that is part of the problem.
DeJuana Thompson: The power of it.
Melanie L. Campbell: Part of that is part of the oppression of other folks anointing you as valid or not valid. The types of ways that some funding streams that tend to pick winners and losers in communities. And so, part of why I've been able to sustain is I've been able to shift it. And it's always a struggle. I don't have all of the answers. But I know that that idea that Dr. Walters talked, it's funding our own politics, is real.
Melanie L. Campbell: In the Obama... At least the first term. I can't speak so much for the second term. Black folks wrote checks. Wrote checks. Believed in it that way. So, it's not that we can't. It's just how do we capture that and then sustain the ability when the wealth is not there in our communities because the history of the country is why we don't have the wealth. So, being able to try to figure that out in a way is always a consistent thing. I don't have all those answers and I don't, but I know that where I've seen it work better is when we've been able to combine that and then push on those who need us to be able to understand and respect it by investing. Because I'm not trying to get a job at the White House. You are.
Kirsten West Savali: Oh, my.
Melanie L. Campbell: So, I have to tell some of my friends, "Look, I'm not trying to get a job at the White House. You want one? Okay, then you need to fund some of this so that you can win and get to the White House if that's the job you want." And so, that's part of [inaudible 01:03:23] for some of us who... And sometimes that puts you in a bad space but that's okay because you've got to keep real about not allowing someone to make you feel less than what you're doing-
DeJuana Thompson: [crosstalk 01:03:36].
Kim Leary: Kirsten?
Kirsten West Savali: Yeah.
Melanie L. Campbell: [crosstalk 01:03:40].
Kirsten West Savali: This may not even really answer your question about funding. Seriously, because I think so much of it becomes entangled about capital and money and who can we run and all those kinds of things when again, we don't bring into the conversation, again, the people who aren't voting, the people who don't feel like there is an investment in them, regardless of who is in the White House.
DeJuana Thompson: That's true.
Kirsten West Savali: Regardless of who is in office, regardless of who is running. They still don't have water tomorrow. They still won't have food tomorrow. They'll still get stopped by the police when they walk down the street tomorrow.
Kirsten West Savali: So, it's really difficult for me to have conversations. I often say that the system isn't broken but it needs to be when we talk about political duopoly versus Democrats versus Republicans. People say they want basic human rights, right? People say they want everyone to have access to healthcare, everyone to have access to clean water, everyone to have access to quality schools, everyone to have all these things. But then it becomes this approach of, "Well, let's wait a little bit. Let's not let perfect be the enemy of the good. Let's be pragmatic." And it's always the least of these who have the least who never get their issues addressed.
Kirsten West Savali: So, we can have all these conversations about funding and who gets in office and who can get stuff done. It matters what you get done. It matters. So, when we say, "Okay, well, you've got to do this because we can't get this done, nobody wants it," everybody claims they want it. Everyone says they want people to have basic human rights. Everyone claims they don't want police killing our children walking down the street. Everyone claims they don't want black women to be fearful of dying just because they're having a baby. It happened to me. I'm sure other people who have been pregnant who almost died who did not know and then was told after that, "Oh, you're okay so Medicaid is over. Hope you make it past the postpartum period."
Kirsten West Savali: That's real. So, they come from this political advocacy, political campaigning, those kind of things. I'm, in addition to being a journalist, a black mama, a black woman, like so many people in this space. It matters that we get beyond how are we funding the campaign? Who's is in the room? Who's not in the room? Who do we need to go to? So, that's really my concern in those conversations.
Kim Leary: DeJuana?
DeJuana Thompson: Yeah. My response to that would be, and probably all of us know this, when I get a dollar for the work that I do, I'm telling you I look at that dollar like 100 pennies. Because I've got to think about, "Okay. Yes, We're trying to get this person elected but this person [inaudible 01:06:22] may not be on the [inaudible 01:06:23] so we need to deal with that real issue."
Kirsten West Savali: That real issue.
DeJuana Thompson: And so, when I said the comment of when black women vote they vote for community, that's not just about voting. That's just how we operate. When we get a dollar, we think about, "How much can I do with this dollar for myself, for my family, for my church, for my school and my alumna," whatever it is.
DeJuana Thompson: And so, the economics of it, for me and the way have been sort of trying to just do our work differently is that when we get resources we're very upfront with our funders that when we get this money, part of this is going to go to this kind of activism and part of this is going to go to long-term strategy and part of this is going to go into stipends for young black students and part of this is going to go...
DeJuana Thompson: Because we can't use every single dollar that we have just to elect your candidate. We don't exist just to elect you. My organization, her organization, her organization, the work you do, our work exists for the ultimate liberation of black people. So, when we think about that, it can't everything be about electing somebody. It can't all just be about that.
DeJuana Thompson: And so, when I look at what motivates people who are not currently in the room is when I'm at their door when it's not election day, when something is happening when it's not going to benefit the powers that be but it's really actually supporting the everyday issues that we see.
DeJuana Thompson: I tell people all the time because I got my start in municipal government, so super super local level government, I had to answer the phone when trash wasn't picked up, when nasty water was running up into people's toilets because of blockages that the city didn't have the resources to fix in certain communities but other communities never had that problem. So, I understand that it's more than just getting you elected. It's who's working for you that knows how to navigate and organize that whole building to get resources for the communities that don't normally get the money. It's all of those pieces.
DeJuana Thompson: So, when we talk about the money, we have to have the courage to push back, like they said, on these donors, on these people. And I'll be honest. I've had some success with that but also people have said, "Well, we'll come back to you when we're ready for that." They're not ready. And that's okay because I want to be able to stand up the kind of work that says, "When I get this resources, it's not just for electing somebody. It is for the whole community that I'm serving and the resources that we need for that community."
Kim Leary: So, to the question what do black women voters want? Everything.
DeJuana Thompson: Yeah.
Kim Leary: And to the phenomenal women who have honored us with their presence today who have also questioned us, who have loved us, who have encouraged us, and who are continuing to usefully provoke us, thank you very much.
Presenter: You've been listening to AshCast, the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation's podcast. If you'd like to learn more, please visit ash.harvard.edu or follow the Ash Center on social media @harvardash.